Michelle Shapiro Abraham - 2015 Award Recipient
Michelle Shapiro Abraham, Director of Program Development for the Campaign for Youth Engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), has spent nearly two decades as a Jewish educator and has altered the educational landscape in myriad settings and for a cross section of students and colleagues.
“I have written children’s books and adult education curriculum; run religious schools and helped launch Jewish summer camps; worked on national initiatives and supported individual camp directors and educators. I have had people ask what I actually do—what is my specialty? Am I a formal or an informal educator; a teacher of adults or of children? For me, all of these categories are merely methodology and setting. What I am is a Jewish Educator, and what I do is whatever is required. I connect, empower, partner, and cross over the boundaries. I help people align their programs with their outcomes, and weave their vision into their reality.”
Michelle Shapiro-Abraham has served as the Senior Program Manager for Camping at the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) since 2013. Ms. Abraham develops and oversees a number of projects focused on professional development and growth for camp staff members, including the Service Corps grant, which places 25 seasonal camp staff members in congregations during the year where they provide informal education and programming focused on camp recruitment; the Kivun program, which trains camp specialists to integrate Judaism at the highest level of specialty education; and the Olim Fellows Program, which provides year-round retreats and programming for first and second year counseling staff. Ms. Abraham has crafted an integrated two-year curriculum for first and second year counseling staff that includes summer and off-season. She also works in partnership with URJ youth staff members to create new models and approaches to Jewish life for children and teens.
From 2000-2013, Ms. Abraham was the Director of Education at Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains in New Jersey, where she led a religious school of approximately 140 students, oversaw family education programming, and worked with synagogue leadership to create a new approach to family and congregational learning that engaged the entire community in studying the same topic at the same time. In addition, together with the Rabbi and Cantor, she oversaw the B’nai Mitzvah Revolution project in conjunction with the URJ.
Ms. Abraham also served as a consultant to the Foundation for Jewish Camp, where she helped develop and support the Specialty Camp Incubator initiative, and as a Mentor for the Nadiv Project, which places Jewish educators in joint positions with Jewish summer camps and synagogues or day schools.
In 1998, Ms. Abraham received a Reform Jewish Educator Award from the National Association of Temple Educators, and a Creative Teaching Award from the Federation of Rockland County. She is the author of numerous Jewish children’s books and curricula. Ms. Abraham has also published two prayer books through Central Conference of American Rabbis Press, Mishkan T’fillah for Children and Mishkan T’fillah High School Journal.
Ms. Abraham received a B.A. in Religious Studies from California State University, Northridge in 1993 and an M.A. in Jewish Education from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Rhea Hirsch School of Education in 1996. She was awarded the Cantor William Sharlin Award for Excellence in Liturgy in 1999.
From Her Letters of Nomination and Support
“Michelle’s passion for Judaism and her desire to bring the richness of Jewish life to all of our children and their families is apparent in everything she does. Michelle strives to meet the needs of all types of learners, regardless of their learning styles. Michelle brought passion, expertise, energy, and an infectious love of Judaism to our religious school and our congregation.”
Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains
“When I think of Michelle, I think of someone who is bright, talented, and full of passion for Jewish Education. I have never met someone with such boundless energy and the ability to take creative, innovative ideas and execute them these ideas so quickly and seamlessly.”
Board of Education member
Temple Sholom of Scotch Plains
“Michelle Shapiro Abraham is defining, and redefining, experiential education. In her long relationship with the URJ Camps and youth programs, as a consulting partner and now Senior Program Manager, her work has been critical in creating educational experiences that have transformed the lives of thousands of Jewish youth. Michelle has provided a vocabulary and a concrete set of skills to generations of educators in our Movement, and continues to do so through her innovative and inspiring work.”
Associate Director of Camping
Union for Reform Judaism